New overseas phone service

As someone who once returned from Europe to a T-Mobile bill that looked more like the price of a used car than the cost of one month of service, I was pretty excited to hear that a better way to communicate while overseas may be on the horizon. When I was in France, most of the calls I made were to book hotels or check train schedules, and it wasn't until I returned home that I realized how quickly all of those minutes added up.

Patrick Gentemann, founder and president of Call-in-Europe, asks, "As a business person, would you do business in America with a European number? Probably not. Conversely, why would you want to do business in Europe with an American number?" This is the main idea behind the service, which is designed to make communications in Europe more affordable and less of a hassle by providing users with their very own French number while they travel.

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This personal number will help cut down on the cost of calls and make it easier for others to reach you within the country you're traveling, because the calls will be local instead of international. Gentemann says, "Regardless of where you are in the world, people perceive making international calls as expensive. My solution is that the person calling pays very little, because it's a local call, and the person receiving it pays nothing."

The least expensive calling plan costs $15, and includes 30 rollover minutes for use in France. Outside of France, you'll pay up to $1.99 per minute for calls to Eastern Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. However, the service also offers free inbound calls while in France, the opportunity for rollover minutes, and phone rentals for as little as $2.99 per day if your phone isn't GSM compatible.

Reaching loved ones back in the states, however, will still cost extra, about $0.79 per minute in France. T-Mobile and Cingular charge $0.99 per minute, and Cingular tacks on a $5.99 charge per month. So, maybe this really is a better way to save and still keep in touch. I'll just have to wait until I return to my bill from my next overseas vacation before I make any final judgment.

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